Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG has close to a 25-year history in digital printing, and it has sent a number of digital devices to market during that time. What it never managed to develop was a branding strategy for its digital products: a template for an all-inclusive identity marking the products and their source as distinct and committed presences in the digital print manufacturing segment.

This had something to do with the fact that certain products either weren’t successful for Heidelberg (the Nexpress joint venture with Kodak) or fell by the wayside technologically (DI direct imaging presses). The company didn’t have enough digital assets, in fact, to build a credible branding strategy around—until the portfolio of products that Heidelberg set on “Fire” in a pre-drupa media briefing in Germany last week.

“Fire” is the suffix that Heidelberg is attaching to the first names of four classes of digital devices that it will present as a unified family of solutions at the Düsseldorf show. “Fire” refers to firing droplets of ink onto paper, an apt nomenclature in that inkjet is the process that animates three of the four systems. The full names—Labelfire, Omnifire, Primefire, and Versafire—replace previous designations and allude to the market segments each Fire product is aimed at.

Next week, WhatTheyThink will present complete coverage of the Fire line and other developments discussed at the briefing. Of everything, the main headline-grabber is the Primefire 106 (pictured). Jointly developed with Fujifilm over the last 24 months, Primefire 106 is a B1-format (approximately 28" x 40") sheetfed inkjet press built for industrial printing in up to seven colors of water-based pigment ink. Its feeder and delivery come from the Speedmaster XL 106, Heidelberg’s highest-performance sheetfed litho press in B1. 

The straight-printing machine has a conditioning unit that coats substrates with a fluid to assist ink droplets emitted by the Fujifilm printheads. Technical and application details were scant, but Heidelberg indicated that Primefire’s ability to process heavy stocks make it a platform that will be targeted at short-run and customized packaging. Journalists saw the Primefire 106 in live operation at Heidelberg R&D center during the briefing, and the device is to be shown running at Heidelberg’s stand at drupa. Commercial availability is expected to begin next year.

Heidelberg asked the journalists not to characterize the two-day briefing as a digital presentation inasmuch as the program included other product news and went into unusually deep detail about the company’s general business strategies. But, the event marked the start of a concerted digital push the likes of which Heidelberg has never attempted before. That was the bellwether news from Germany last week, and more is to come. Watch for a full report next week and extended coverage of Heidelberg’s digital portfolio at drupa.